Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Rewards of Consistency

(This post is part of my series: An Aversion to Marketing with a Fear of Bleeding)

My last post discussed the benefits and pitfalls of expecting yourself to blog on a schedule. But I need to address the question of why a person should blog on a schedule at all. Why not just post whenever you have something astounding to say?

There are a few reasons. I'll start with the personal ones, and close with professional ones.

If I waited to post until I was ready to knock everyone's socks off, then I'll spend the next six months tinkering with my attempt at the perfect blog post and never say anything at all. I might just drop off the face of the earth. This is the same reason I can't wait to write stories until I'm totally inspired.

There's also something to be said for habit — if I know I'm writing a post daily, or whatever my habit is, then I'll stay alert to what's around me or what's striking my passion. For example, when I hear myself talking in a certain tone of voice, I detect the passion and force of my opinion and think, "I should write about that." Without a regular habit of blogging (as with any other type of writing habit), these ideas will simply get lost, or go on a long to-do list that I will never actually get to.

(However, as I discussed yesterday, neither of these reasons justifies me writing posts by simply manufacturing something to say. I don't send out every story I write — some just aren't good. Blogging, like all writing, requires some ability to assess the quality of what I'm producing, and the level of interest it's likely to inspire in others).

Now for the professional reasons, because consistency truly seems to have rewards.

As a reader, if I'm really excited about a writer I just discovered, and then I visit that person's blog and see that their last post was in November 2005, I get disappointed. I want to know what that person is thinking about now or recently, and it gives me a thrill to see that there's a way to get into conversation with him or her. That's anecdotal, but intuition tells me it's probably true more generally. If someone gets to a blog and it looks uninhabited, that reader is more likely to write that site off than to keep checking up.

Because I never know when that magical excited reader is going to pop in (hopefully, any day now...), I have to keep my blog looking fresh. This is a basic housekeeping principle moved into blogging — I don't let the house go to utter chaos, because I want to be at least somewhat prepared if I have a sudden guest.

But then there is the matter of traffic. I have had other blogs, under my real name, and I spent some years working for a magazine. I always felt skeptical about the claim that we needed more content to get more traffic. To some extent, I could see that more posts would mean more page views, but I also wondered if that would lead to diminishing returns. As an individual, there's only so much I can read, and I'm sometimes turned off by sites that seem "too busy."

In this case, though, I'm going to rule against my personal experience. So long as you're not talking drivel, people who post frequently and regularly seem to be rewarded with increased audience. When my magazine began to do it, we saw a huge jump in our audience. When I blogged daily under my real name, I had a jump in traffic that was not explained merely by the increased frequency — the effect was multiplicative. Places like The Huffington Post are masters of this principle, though I don't agree with all of their methods.

So, in this case, I conclude that it's good to have a blogging schedule, both because of the rewards of consistency, and because of the benefits I discussed in my post on taking a stab. The key is to keep that from becoming the mindless production of empty content.

I've tried schedules such as Monday - Wednesday - Friday, but my observation has always been that posting daily brings me the best results, both in terms of the personal reasons I gave and in terms of the professional reasons.

See the other posts in this series here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking a Stab vs Manufacturing Something to Say

(This post is part of my series: An Aversion to Marketing with a Fear of Bleeding)

Bloggers, particularly those doing it for professional reasons, are under a lot of pressure to "produce content" — whatever that means. There's the idea that it's important to post consistently, whether that's daily or weekly or some other schedule.

I've seen a lot of encouragement to "just write something." I think that's good advice, but it needs to be balanced the right way. It needs to be about taking a stab, rather than manufacturing something to say.

Here's an example of taking a stab:

If you were to read my whole archive, you'd notice that I've made several mentions of nonconsensual erotica. This is a subject I'm interested in, have a lot of strong feelings about, and would like to talk about more on this blog. However, I get nervous because I worry about getting it wrong. It's a complex topic that's volatile, and I feel there's a real risk of losing people forever if I'm not careful about how I structure what I say. A couple weeks ago, I spent most of an afternoon trying to compose a blog post on this subject, but got really bogged down trying to be crystal clear about everything and cover all the bases in that one post.

That's really never going to work. I'll stay stuck in fear forever if I don't take a stab and do my best at expressing a small piece of what I have to say. I'm not going to be careless, but in this case, it's better, I think, to say something about a subject I care about than choosing the alternative, which is to remain forever silent about a subject I care about because I'm not sure I can do it perfectly.

For things like this, blog schedules can be really helpful, because they push me to keep working at a subject and writing about it. Otherwise, I might start a super-long essay that's going to stay hidden on my computer forever because I'm nervous about it.

Manufacturing something to say is very different, and I think it's the shadow side of having a blog schedule. Here's an example:

Opinions take time, and sometimes I don't want to invest the time in developing a smart opinion. I just want to write a post in 10 minutes and check the box that I did this. Better yet, how about getting several days ahead? I, personally, am too nervous to throw opinions around in a situation like this because I'm afraid of being held to something I don't really want to believe. When I want to manufacture content, that's usually when I pull out the inane news posts and promo attempts.

Now I'm not saying all news and promo is bad. But I'm pretty sure it's not what people want to read. A person might put up with a bit of it if it occurs between thoughtful posts, but I have, as a reader, stopped my subscriptions to blogs that were too full of these. I just don't care about this stuff unless the writer gives me a reason to care by nestling it in the middle of truly substantive writing.

Recently, I came to the painful conclusion that manufacturing content is a waste of time. It just detracts from my blog and makes it boring to visitors.

I've seen other things that I suspect of being attempts to manufacture content. I've seen writers come up with a great headline and a few sentences of an interesting premise. Then they abandon that thought and go straight into an excerpt of their latest book. This is the worst, I think, because it disrespects both reader and writer. I really don't want to click on a post that I think is going to be about gay marriage rights or some similar weighty subject only to discover that the author hasn't put in the time.

So, to summarize, I think a blog schedule can be good if it pushes me to take a stab at a weighty subject I care about, particularly over time. This will help me to hone my thoughts and hopefully connect me to others interested in the same topic. On the other hand, a blog schedule is bad if it encourages me to dilute my good, passionate writing with fluff that I couldn't reasonably expect anyone to read.

See the other posts in this series here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shame Still Holds Me Back

In my latest post on Eros and Thanatos, I talk about what still scares me as a writer:

If I had to model the way shame works for me, I'd get a set of Russian dolls and use them to sort out the layers of it. On the outer, biggest doll, I'd paint the word "sex." Then, as I moved deeper into the set, I would get more specific. "Kink." "Pain-slut." "Non-consent as turn-on."

The way I displayed the Russian dolls would express how well I was dealing with that shame. Years ago, that set of dolls would have been at the bottom of a drawer in a dresser tucked in the back of my closet. Today, it's on top of the bookshelf in the living room, right near my copy of The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women (the book is actually in my living room; the strained-metaphor dolls are not).

You can read the rest here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

When BDSM Lacks Safewords

I don't talk about it much, but my first BDSM relationship was quite abusive. I was young, and had no idea that there was a community, or even that other people understood the things I desired, shared those desires, and had given them names. When I got together with someone who started tying me up, introducing spanking, and so forth, I was excited, ashamed, confused. He was older, and I leaned on him to know what we were doing.

We didn't have safewords. We didn't have negotiations. He just did things to me, and we had all the problems you might expect. There was no way to differentiate between fun "no" and serious "no." There was no way to express that -- really, truly -- I wasn't ready for something. And I was too dependent and not in control of my own sexual fate.

Why am I talking about this now? In conversation on Twitter the other night with @eroticawriter (author I.G. Frederick) and @MenageReviewer (Mary's Naughty Whispers), the question came up: "Is there such a thing as nonconsensual BDSM?"

I understand where the question came from, because these days to me BDSM is deeply intertwined with consent and negotiation. I'm sympathetic to the idea that if there's no clear sense of consent, it's abuse, not BDSM. I wish we lived in that world. But the truth is, we live in a world where a lot of people (including my past self) aren't very educated about sex, and don't have a good sense of how to take charge of what happens to them in a sexual context.

As part of the conversation, I discovered two incredible blog posts on this subject written by I.G. Frederick. I think they're must-reads for anyone who's ever been in a BDSM relationship that felt "off."

The first lays out the difference between abuse and BDSM:

But without training and experience, without care and consideration, abuse can happen even with consent. Someone who consents to a D/s relationship without prior knowledge of what it involves or the person to whom he/she is submitting is a perfect candidate for emotional abuse. This statement, in a “slave’s” online journal, speaks volumes about what the person writing it has experienced in the past. “i need some security and to feel good that i am not going to be thrown away for a simple reason.”

The second describes the anger that inspired Frederick to write disturbing erotic novels on this subject:

These novels are not romances. They’re cautionary tales about abuse and the meaning of consent. (In Broken Jessica consents to enslavement by her professor when he threatens to expel her from the university and blacklist her.) I know some readers find them arousing. Others have found them revolting. But, my intention was that readers find them thought provoking and that has indeed been the case.

This is a great example of why I think it's important for there to be at least some erotica that exists apart from the requirement of a happy ending. I need to read stories like this sometimes to understand the things that have happened to me. Other stories have given me a vision of hope -- the idea of what a BDSM relationship can be. But sometimes, I just need to know that someone else understands these situations in all their complexity -- pain and arousal both included.

Music Mondays: "Not In Love" by Crystal Castles featuring Robert Smith

"We were lovers--now we can't be friends. Fascination ends. Here we go again."

Take nostalgic lyrics, add frantic, desperate electronic music, and then think who might be the best possible person to perform the vocals. If you guessed The Cure's Robert Smith, you have the right answer. The result? A sexy anthem of denial, longing, and obsession.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Doing Good While Being Bad

When I decided to publish The Six Swans with Coming Together: Neat, I agreed to a pretty unusual payment plan. All proceeds for books from that particular line go to Kiva, a website that distributes microloans to entrepreneurs around the world. Think Kickstarter, except that the recipients have to pay the money back and you don't get stickers and tchotchkes for contributing.

Royalties from The Six Swans show up as Kiva gift cards, and I can lend them as I choose, along with other members of the Coming Together: Neat lending team.

The book came out in early April, so I'm just getting the chance to get in on this. I've written before that my participation in Coming Together has often surprised me -- I tend to show up for the erotica and the chance to work with the awesome people, and then later I realize I'm really happy about the "altruism" in the "erotic altruism" that Coming Together espouses.

This was definitely the case here. Only when I went to actually make my Kiva account did I realize how exciting this is.

Here's the deal: Writing is a dream come true for me. How cool is it that I get to help other people achieve their dreams as a byproduct of pursuing my own?

Kiva also allows a really cool sort of transparency. If you want to see where royalties for The Six Swans are going, you can check out my lender page and see who I'm supporting. I probably spent two hours picking out my first loan recipient, Leala. I picked her because I wanted to help a fellow Pacific Islander female.

I plan to periodically update this blog with information about what's going on with Kiva. And, as always, a big thank you to the folks at Coming Together, for helping me learn to do good while being bad.

If you'd like to contribute to this (and read hot stories in the process), you can pick up The Six Swans, or any of the other books in the Coming Together: Neat line.

New Werewolf Erotica on the Way!

A quick update to say I just signed a contract with Breathless Press for a new erotic werewolf novelette, currently titled "Not His Territory."

More details when it gets closer to release, but for now I'll say it's about a woman caught between her werewolf ex-husband and the werewolf investigator who's come to town to challenge him.

Breathless is publishing another werewolf story of mine, "The Arcadian Cure," in the forthcoming Ravaged anthology. I'm hoping to keep a good thing going, and am still thinking about lycanthropes. Perhaps more will be on the way.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Difficulties of Writing About Penises

Erotica For All put up a guest post from me today, in which I talked about the challenges of writing sex scenes from a male point of view as a female author:

Take the case of a male point of view. I like penises. I’ve played with my fair share. And I’m a human who doesn’t believe that men are from Mars and women are from Venus — we’re both from Earth, and we have a lot in common. I probably wouldn’t hesitate to write a non-erotic story from a man’s point of view. Erotica, on the other hand, intimidated me, since such an undertaking would necessitate describing how it feels to have a cock.

This came up a lot when I was working on my e-book The Six Swans, which was entirely from a male point of view. But since I conquered the fear with that piece, I've found myself writing from the "other side" more frequently. Less Than a Day, for example, came very naturally that way. And I recently contracted for my first m/m story.

If you'd like to see my mini writing lab on how I leveraged my own sexual experience to pry my way into the head of the opposite gender, you can read the full post at Erotica For All.

Friday, May 25, 2012

An Aversion to Marketing with a Fear of Bleeding

A lot of people, myself included, blog because they're writers, and these days a blog is pretty much an obligation for a writer. Though you see the occasional article reminding you that some authors sell books just fine without participating in social media, there is a powerful sense that you absolutely must participate in social media or no one will buy your books. Ever.

Great. So you're a writer, and now you have a blog. What do you do with it? The obvious thing is to post news of whatever you're publishing. This makes your blog sort of a brochure. If someone reads one of your stories somewhere and wants to know more about you, that person can come to your blog and find out more. This reader can see what you've been up to and then maybe check out some of your other work.

I am sure this happens occasionally. I, in fact, often check out other people's blogs that way. But if you are not as famous as Neil Gaiman, there is probably no one besides your partner and your best friend — if you're lucky — who hangs breathlessly on your every blog post, just dying to hear more about what you've been working on lately.

This brings up a few questions. Can you grab those people who sometimes check you out and maybe keep them? Is there something you can do or say that will increase their interest in what you're working on? Also, can you "build an audience?" In other words, can you start to gather a group of people who are interested in what you say and what you are working on lately?

This is where I think it breaks down for many people. Writers are being flogged with the notion that they need to "build audience." And that they can somehow use social media for that. I'm a writer, so I know.

But I'm also a reader, and I can tell you that many writers I'm interested in manage to turn me off with the way they use social media to build audience, reducing my interest rather than increasing it. And I think I might be guilty, too.

Here's the thing: Maybe you can be a stone cold marketer and use those guides to social media to build audience. If so, you probably shouldn't be reading this. But I'm someone who wants to build audience — translated back into real people talk, I mean, I want people to read my blog — but I have an aversion to marketing. I feel like real people, the readers I want, can smell marketing and will avoid it like the plague. I know I do. I have stopped following many blogs because they seemed like nothing more than self-serving news feeds.

So I asked myself what I like as a reader. What makes me more interested in a blog, rather than less?

It turns out to be the same thing I like in any writing. It's when the author bleeds on the page. When the author is passionate, surprising. I'm engaged if they're engaging. I don't want to read transparent attempts to sell your book. I want to know what made you mad as hell, and what you love. I want you to teach me something. It's a tall order. But if you win me over that way, I'll follow you far. I'll buy your work and click your links and go like your stuff on Facebook and whatever stuff like that you want me to do.

So, you know, a really tough step one, and then you'll have me in the palm of your hand for all the steps after that.

Can I do that as a writer? If the only blogs I like are the ones where the author bleeds on the page, can I follow suit?

That's hard. I fear bleeding. I do it slowly. I do it with lots of revisions. When I write stories, I absolutely bleed on the page. I never wanted to do it anywhere else. I never wanted to do it in front of people. And while I stand by what I write in my stories, I have a real fear of revealing my real self on my blog, my real opinions, my true voice. What if I come out and say something I only hinted at in a story, and as a result someone decides she hates me and won't buy my book? That's only the beginning of my fear.

I think that blogging has a lot of elements that amplify this sort of fear. The system of reward and punishment makes it hard to be brave about bleeding on the page. That's something I plan to explore in upcoming posts.

But the title of this post is my rough title for this series: An Aversion to Marketing with a Fear of Bleeding. That's a statement of the problem I'm trying to solve.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Warning: Blog Rant Approaching

A few mornings ago, I felt profoundly disrespected as a reader. I frequently click links I see on Twitter, and I followed a series of links different people shared that led to blog posts that were vapid, transparent attempts at self-promotion — basically a complete waste of my time.

There's no shortage of vapid self-promotion on the Internet. What got me was that these links were not obviously in this class. They seemed to be earnest — failed — attempts to produce something people might want to read. The links came from people who hadn't written the posts themselves, maybe motivated by the desire to help fellow writers out.

I felt really annoyed, because in all cases, the posts started with a premise I was interested in, but then avoided saying anything new or courageous and devolved into self-promotion. I am pretty sure that, in one post, the author made numerous factual errors. People are wrong on the Internet all the time, of course, but this time I couldn't let it go.

As I thought about it over the next several days, I realized I was so annoyed because as I pointed my finger at these posts — which to me were sordid examples of disrespecting the reader in an effort to sell something — three fingers pointed back at me.

Is every post I write about something I believe in and care about? Something I care about people reading? Do I sometimes try to just feed the beast, writing posts just to write them? Am I treating my own readers well — both actual and hypothetical readers? Am I wasting my own time by producing vapid copy that no one would ever care enough to read, or that, worse, would disappoint anyone who tried?

Soon, I found myself making furious notes about the things I was thinking about.

I didn't want to write a bunch of posts about blogging. It's too meta, I told myself. I'm supposed to be using this blog to write about sex. But after generating a list of ideas two pages long, I was reminded of something all sex writers know: passion is a force to be reckoned with. I'm going to go with the rant, and if the notes I've made are any indication, it may go on a while.

There are three categories of posts I want to write about this:

-- Expressing outrage about common blogging "wisdom" that I believe is terribly detrimental
-- Asking what sort of writing is interesting and valuable to both writer and reader
-- Making these things specific by setting directions for this blog

Ultimately, what I want is to make this site more interesting, both to write and to visit.

I've asked myself whether a series of posts on blogging is the most useful way to go about achieving this goal, but this has become a case of "the only way out is through." I'm asking myself these questions all the time, and I think that if I don't want to end up taking a long, possibly permanent hiatus, I'm going to have to turn toward the blog rather than away from it and use it to explore the things I'm thinking about.

Really, these questions could apply to any type of writing. One thing I'm sure of is that a person should only blog about things he or she cares about, and writing is something I care about deeply. Here's hoping that by getting this rant off my chest, I end up improving this site and possibly even helping others get more out of what they're doing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lyrics That Disturb Me: (Fun Edition)

Above I've embedded the song "We Are Young," by a band called Fun. The singer opens the song by crooning the intro section in a style that makes me think of a male Tracy Chapman. It sounds folky and sweet, but here's a snip of what he's actually saying:

My lover she's waiting for me just across the bar
My seat's been taken by some sunglasses asking bout a scar, and
I know I gave it to you months ago
I know you're trying to forget
But between the drinks and subtle things
The holes in my apologies, you know
I'm trying hard to take it back

Wait, what? What is this about him giving his lover a scar? Violence happens. People should be able to write about it, and there are plenty of songs with violent lyrics that I like, but I'm starting to identify a pattern: It annoys me when the violence gets packaged in sweet-sounding vocals, as part of a song that is going to get treated as a fun anthem by thousands of kids drinking in bars. This creates a sort of dissonance that really makes me squirm.

As far as I can tell, this song is about a guy who did something horrible to his lover some time ago. She's trying to forget about it and stay with him, and he's never managed to really apologize. Instead of addressing the problem, the two of them go and get drunk a lot and enjoy the sense of closeness that comes from carrying each other home. Take a look at the lyrics, and correct me if I'm wrong.

Sure, you can tell this story, but I don't like the way this song's breezy chorus makes people perceive its message. This song is being used to sell Chevys and stuff. I think that's weird, and not okay.

Stories I've Enjoyed: "Rescue Wounds" by Kal Cobalt

Yup, trying to resurrect this weekly feature. Mostly because I got really excited about this story when I read an excerpt in a recent Circlet Press Chat. Kal Cobalt's "Rescue Wounds" was published in Circlet's Queerpunk anthology a couple years back.

I found the writing dense and gorgeous. I had to slow way down to read it, because the words have a deep sense of strangeness. They work like cyberpunk should, though. Cobalt doesn't so much explain the world as let it hand within the words on the page. The writing has a lovely way of creating double metaphors: on one hand technological and on the other hand lovely and organic. The relationship in the story is handled with similar subtlety.

Here's a sample, which I hope you'll find as gorgeous as I do:

19178 ticked my cock, again, and delivered a contented little hum at what he found. He started in on the usual behaviors we'd established - all things he took the lead on, so I could respond as necessary and concentrate on the bore. He tongued my ethercock, giving me a truly boring lickjob while I broke relay codes.

The undergrove sprawled beneath six commerce towers; it was going to take a combination of geo-location and cracking the distribution codes to pinpoint his bodyshack. Numbers raced past my right eye faster than I could consciously process. My subprocessors ground through the data in the background, making my skull ache. 19178 kept licking, slipping me an image of his wet lips wrapped tight around my shaft. I blinked the bore into high gear; it was a question now of which would finish first, my subprocessing or my cock. Both ached,pushed to their limit.

I hate it when I come before I'm done cracking.

You can read the rest in the Queerpunk anthology.

Full disclosure: A few of my stories have been published by Circlet, but when I write stuff like this, I'm acting entirely on my own, using a copy of a book that I bought myself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Distracted Lover

Here's the first scene from my story, The Snake and the Lyre, which is now available at Forbidden Fiction:

Eurydice rested her cheek against Orpheus’s thigh. His rich voice tingled in her ears, its timbre sweet as a persimmon. His foot tapped slowly as he plucked his lyre, rocking Eurydice’s head with the ancient rhythm of the ocean.

The strings of the lyre—they trembled and thrilled beneath his fingertips. They exulted and crooned. Eurydice would have responded just that way had he thought to draw his music from her body rather than the instrument.

She didn’t mind the rocks on the hill where they sat, and yet she recrossed her ankles under her body, fidgeting. Her heel pressed between her legs, sinking slightly into her cunt. Safely hidden by her skirt, Eurydice rocked on it in time with Orpheus’s song.

She closed her eyes and pretended that the notes slipping into the wind around them were his hands slipping into her clothes. Her inner thighs shivered. His tongue could leave wet trails there. He could find his way to the juncture of her legs and sing only to her, his full lips and white teeth forming private poetry. Eurydice imagined his eyes, the shade of grapes in the vineyard, gazing up along her belly and between the peaks of her breasts. She would grip hunks of his black hair and pull his face tight to her. She would lock her ankles at the base of his spine and refuse to let go until she tired of finding release against his beautiful mouth.

“My love?” Orpheus’s song had ended. He stroked her hair—too gently. “Eurydice, my love? What did you think of that Hypophrygian setting? I might compose in that mode for our wedding. It speaks so delicately, expressing the yearning of youth joined with the peaceable accord of family life.”

Eurydice made the effort to smile. She kissed the top of his thigh through his tunic. “Your music would make the gods ache. It will be lovely.” She inhaled his sharp, male scent, lifted from his body by the heat of the day. She pressed her lips to his leg again, a little higher up.

Orpheus frowned, adjusting his grip on his lyre. “The Lydian mode might be more traditionally appropriate. Simple happiness—that’s a good atmosphere for a wedding.” He scratched absently behind Eurydice’s ear. “I think I can transpose this, so you can hear them one after the other.”

She sighed and touched his ankle, just above the strap of his sandal. She angled her body to emphasize the swell of her breasts and lifted her eyes to his through the veil of her curling dark hair. “Orpheus...”

“Yes, love?”

“Perhaps you could lay aside the lyre for a little while?” Eurydice moved her hand up past the hem of his tunic. The muscles of his thigh twitched as she approached his cock.

Orpheus’s indulgent smile dashed her hopes against the rocks of his perfect cheekbones. He retrieved her hand from beneath his clothes and returned it to her. “The wedding will come before you know it, my dear. We’ll spend all night making love and singing to the stars.”

Eurydice folded her hands in her lap, unable to resist pressing them against her crotch. “Of course,” she said. “You want to try the Lydian mode, you said?”

I should warn that it gets a whole lot darker from here. You can pick up the book to read the rest here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Are Watersports the Odd Fetish Out?

If you've looked much at erotica publisher's guidelines, you're very familiar with the common list of squicks: scat, bestiality, necrophilia, watersports, noncon, pedophilia, etc. Some of that list is there for legality (pedophilia, for example), some for reputation (the publisher doesn't want to have a bunch of extreme, seamy stuff clogging up its erotic romance titles), and some is there, perhaps, because it doesn't sell well (maybe I'm projecting my own feelings, but I don't think there's a huge market for scat). By all means, publishers should differentiate their brands and publish what they're comfortable publishing. But I was really struck by a comment on watersports in a guest blog by Slave Nano posted at Erotica for All.

Slave Nano is discussing the editing process for what sounds like a pretty extreme bdsm novel, Adventures in Fetishland (a book with some inspiration from Alice in Wonderland):

Adventures in Fetishland has scenes of corporal punishment, nipple torture, cock and ball torture, electrical play, medical play, use of sounds, strap-on-play, cling film mummification, breath play and an attempted anal rape scene. So, you can see, it isn’t exactly for the faint hearted! But, one of the scenes I had to edit was a comic one involving Kim, the main character, pissing in a tea pot! I just have trouble grappling with how all that other extreme stuff was acceptable but a funny scene at a fetish hatter’s tea party involving pee had to be axed.

I take that point. The aversion to pee sounds silly in the context Slave Nano lists. That definitely got me thinking.

On the other hand, I wonder how salable watersports writing is. Does the publisher have any stats on that? My personal reaction might support the publisher's decision. I like some extreme stuff, and when I read the list of what is in the book, I get a little excited. Maybe a lot excited. Watersports, on the other hand, is icky to me a lot of the time -- I have read some writing about it that I liked, but it's often a negative in a piece of writing I otherwise love.

I think it's worth examining the reasons for avoiding certain subjects, and, every now and then, experimenting with pushing a boundary or two. If you're ready to push a boundary now, Slave Nano's post includes an unexpurgated version of the pee scene he had to cut from the finished book, and it is in fact quite funny.

Music Mondays: "Add It Up" by the Violent Femmes

"Nothin' I can say when I'm in your thighs..."
--The Violent Femmes

I remember the moment I first heard this song, suddenly unable to breathe. I'd heard the beginning in Reality Bites (yeah, I have to admit that Ethan Hawke's version was my introduction), but the whole thing, the original, still struck me like a revelation. The Violent Femmes are the avatars of teenage urgency and attitude. There is no substitute.

And I know I always go on about bass lines, but this one is classic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Looking at Old Stories

Writers often talk how looking at an old story makes them cringe. I certainly know the feeling. But why is that? It's because I've gotten better since I wrote whatever that was. Is it bothering me to read an old story because I'm painfully aware of a writing tic that I've since overcome? Great. That means I've overcome it in my current writing.

Here's an example I recently noticed. An editor commented earlier this year on my use (or perhaps overuse) of the word "felt." I painstakingly edited a manuscript to correct that tic, and the experience stuck. I'm using the word a lot less frequently now, across the board (there's something about going over a 30K-word manuscript with a fine-toothed comb that will really sink a lesson or two into a person).

But any story I wrote pre-2012 is littered with that word. So I cringe when I see them. In my big edit, I created a new part of my brain devoted to reconstructing sentences that use "felt" unnecessarily. It goes into overdrive when I look at an old manuscript.

Do I wish I could go in and fix those mistakes? Hell, yes. But I can't. The best I can do is appreciate the lesson learned since.

That's not to say I always hate old stories. I see tics like that, but I also get taken back to the emotion I felt while writing those pieces, the things I was concerned about, and the things I learned. For example, "The Artist's Retreat," my piece in Whispers in Darkness, probably uses "felt" too many times. But it was also the piece that made me discover my love of pastiche. Trying to write in H.P. Lovecraft's voice set me free like nothing else had. It was exhilarating, and I grew as a writer as a result.

Anyone who plans to write over a lifetime will have these types of experiences. Any piece is better than something that went before, and lacking the lessons learned in pieces yet to come. Assessing these things honestly is a key to mental health.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tybalt and Mercutio

My first m/m piece will soon come out from Circlet, as part of an erotic Shakespeare anthology. Titled, "The Last Dream," it tells the behind-the-scenes story of Tybalt and Mercutio, up until just before the fatal battle in which Romeo's interference causes Mercutio to die by Tybalt's sword.

I've never written m/m before -- that old "write what you know" adage had me a little nervous. I loved writing this story, since I was busting down that fear and also making bold with some of the most formidable source material ever. In the very beginning of the story, I write some additional lines for Mercutio's famous "Queen Mab" speech. Sometimes, writing makes you feel audacious, and this was one of those times!

I also got to refer to Romeo as "Wandercock" several times, and I wrote all the dialogue in blank verse. So, yeah, I'm proud of this one. I'll post more news and excerpts as I have them.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Iliad Fan Fiction

I've got another story on the way from Forbidden Fiction -- "After Troy, the Women." This is a riff on The Iliad. The principal characters are Briseis (the woman that Agamemnon and Achilles fight over in the beginning of the work) and Andromache (wife of Hector). I like fan fiction, and have read more than my share of works devoted to Dragon Age, but haven't really written any. This is the closest I've come, I'd say.

I love The Iliad, and have read it once every few years since my Freshman year of college. This story is my love letter to the book, my game with the characters it introduces. I have a thing for pastiche, but this isn't an example of that. I'm in the world, but not speaking like Homer.

Fan fiction based on The Iliad sort of illustrates a major point about fan fiction, which is that it's been going on a long time. If you think of "After Troy, the Women" as Iliad fan fiction, you can point to a whole lot more where that came from. Song of Achilles, say, or even Virgil's Aeneid. Writers have been riffing on other writer's work for thousands of years. Glad to throw my hat into the ring.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

God Sex

In the Death of Winter, my latest release from Forbidden Fiction, is a very intense story. It's about God-sex, and I think that would hurt, even as it would be incredible and exhilarating. Here's a short excerpt that gives a sense of the flavor:

After emptying himself down her throat, the god removed his cock from her mouth and wiped it against her hair. Bolormaa watched her black hair blanch white at his touch. “You are marked as mine forever,” Erlik whispered. “You will gain all the power, respect, and trouble that come of this.”

Bolormaa clutched her guts and whimpered. The god’s hand on her shoulder stilled her. His fingers found her nipples, circling them with his chilly touch. He squeezed them into thin, aching points, so stiff with cold that they would not return to their customary shape. Erlik gripped both nipples firmly and pulled up.

She gasped and squirmed to get her feet in place under her. “Do you still wish to receive my third gift?” Erlik asked. He kissed her, her still-thawing cheeks so cold that even his icy tongue felt hot and harsh.

“Yes,” Bolormaa declared. The god guided her onto all fours in the snow.

Erlik placed the head of his cock against Bolormaa’s cunt but did not push inside. He leaned forward and gripped her nipples again, pinching until she screamed and fought him. Slowly, the god increased the pressure, pulling until she had no choice but to impale herself.

The stabbing cold of his rigid member reached steadily farther inside her. “Please,” Bolormaa gasped. More and more of it entered her, until it seemed far longer than what had been in her mouth. The god’s cock bottomed out inside her, but still he pulled her nipples.

You can pick up the book here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mad Scientists and Ninjas and Villains, Oh My!

Circlet recently promised that some awesome calls for submission were coming down the line, and they weren't kidding. They've posted 3 new calls, all seemingly calculated to fire me up. Mad scientists. Ninjas. Villains. I have a lot of brainstorming to do.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

T-Rex on Sex and Violence

The latest Dinosaur comic got me thinking.

It is weird that the language of violence is so commonly used to describe sex acts. There's also implicit violence in a lot of euphemisms. For example, "Give it to her," sounds violent to my ear, maybe because it's usually in a complete sentence like, "Give it to her harder."

The language flows in the other direction, too. For example, there's the famous line used to start a UFC match: "Let's get it on!" Here, sex becomes a metaphor for the intimacy and excitement of the fight.

Sometimes, these things can be bad, adding a layer of ugliness that doesn't have to be there. But sometimes, it might just express physical effort or the sense of importance that's in a sex act.

T-Rex notes that the language of violence is used in all sorts of cases. Maybe that's the language we use for a certain kind of striving, a certain sensation, a certain burst of adrenaline.

I don't have an outlet for violence in my daily life. I don't ever actually hit anyone. So, the most violent thing I'll do in a given day is fuck. Sometimes, I do it hard, cursing and sweating and pushing my muscles to the point of exhaustion. And then, "hit that" makes a lot more sense as a metaphor. I'd hit that pelvis, hard, slapping my ass against it while I strain toward orgasm. I'd sweat all over that. I'd sink my teeth into that, grip those hips and grind. Kind of hot that way.

Maybe "hit that" expresses animal lust, when you don't exactly mean, "I'd make love to that person" or "I'd like to be in a relationship with that person."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Death of a God

On Eros and Thanatos, my blog at Forbidden Fiction, I wrote about the premise of "In the Death of Winter," and how writing about sex helps me find truth in other areas of life:
It made sense to me for religion to linger beyond the life of the god once I saw it as a sexual relationship. So often these days, I hear people speak about religion as a transaction — I'm a good girl, so God is supposed to take care of me. It's hard to imagine how one is supposed to sustain any kind of faith under those circumstances. Bargains between people and deities never seem fair.

You can read the rest here.

Music Mondays: "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men

"We used to play outside when we were young and full of life and full of love."
--Of Monsters and Men

I find duets inherently sexy. There's something about the interplay of two voices that really does it for me.

When you listen to this song alone, it has a lovely, romantic wistfulness that I think is hot.

The video is awesome and worth watching, but not very sexy. It's wild and fantastic and it will catch you up in its world. I recommend listening to the song first without the video, but then taking a look--if nothing else, you have to see the craziness they've dreamed up for this thing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Demotion

I've noticed a negative shift in how others react to my writing, one that I think has to do with subtle sexism.

I used to spend most of my writing time on technology journalism. Most of my professional interactions were with men. They were the vast majority of my interview subjects, readers, and editors. My career also played well with men. At dinner parties, I invariably found myself in long discussions with the men about the merits or flaws of the iPhone, or similar subjects.

My career commanded respect. People took me seriously and never asked things like, "Is there enough work?" or "Do you make a living writing that?"

Things are different now, and I'm writing a much larger proportion of erotica. Most of my professional interactions are with women. Women are the vast majority of my writer friends, readers, and editors. I have a "coming out" issue when asked about what I write. Do I talk about it at all? Is whoever I'm talking to going to react strangely? I avoid the subject at dinner parties.

When I do tell people about my writing, I often get asked, "Is there enough work?" or "Do you actually get paid to write that?" or "When will you go back to writing 'real' stuff?"

Some of this may have to do with the taboo subject of sex versus the socially acceptable subject of technology (ironically, frequently written about using terms borrowed from the language of sex). However, I think some of the sense of demotion has to do with writing in a "woman's world" versus in a "man's world." I get added support for this theory because I sometimes play softball by saying I write "romance," which seems to inspire even more questioning about whether I am actually doing anything -- despite the fact that romance sells beautifully.

I sense loss of respect from conversation partners, but also within myself. Over and over again, I have to remind myself that I'm writing erotica more because this is what I enjoy writing the most. I am doing this for pleasure, and because I seem to be pretty good at it. And yet I feel strong pressure to write more about technology to regain respect.

When I ask myself why, I keep coming up with ideas like this writing is frivolous, less valuable, or self-indulgent. I should note that this runs directly opposite to my deeply held beliefs, and my personal experience of the power of writing and reading erotica. I frequently uncover beliefs about how this writing isn't as serious or well-crafted, despite knowing how hard I work on it -- in many cases, much harder and with more concern for art than was the case when I wrote about technology.

The sense of frivolity or lack of value keep bringing me back to subtle sexism I've found in my thinking. I grew up with the sense that I should try as hard as possible to act as little like a woman as possible. I didn't want to talk like a woman, have emotions like a woman, or behave like a woman. In writing erotica, I really embrace my femininity -- much more powerfully than I did in my technology writing. The sense of demotion that comes with that feels sinister to me, related to that deeper underlying sense that I should avoid being female wherever I could manage to do so.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In the Death of Winter Released!

My story, In the Death of Winter, released today at Forbidden Fiction.


As a young woman hangs bound in desperate, hopeful sacrifice, an aged priestess of the dead god of winter recalls the night he made her his, with his power and his cold passion. (F/F, M/F)


“Will you send me away if he does not come?” Sarant pressed.

Bolormaa sighed. “Child, he will not come. He is dead.”

She uncoiled a rough length of hemp and bound Sarant’s wrists with it. The god would have liked this one. The cuts that had covered Sarant’s body when Bolormaa found her had nearly healed. Most village men would reject the girl as hopelessly disfigured, but Erlik favored signs of inner strength.

Bolormaa’s bones creaked when she hoisted Sarant’s hands above her head and fastened them to the branch of a great larch tree. The young woman’s nipples had already grown hard. Sarant panted with excitement, and the smell of her arousal stung the old woman’s nostrils.

“Why are we doing this if we know he will not come?”

Bolormaa tugged and tightened the ropes, grunting. “Because I am an old fool, and I cannot give up hope that he might.”

I'll post a more substantial, sexier excerpt in the future. For now, you can check out the book here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oral Pleasure

I promised an excerpt of "Getting Something Out of It," my story in the new Cleis anthology Going Down: Oral Sex Stories. When I wrote this story, I was thinking about the pleasure the giver receives from giving head. Conventional wisdom holds that it's something you're doing for someone else, or that if you're into it, it's because you like the power trip. In this story, I get away from both of those things and consider the giver's physical pleasure from the act -- oral fixation, smell, and so on. Here's a bit:

“Let’s try it. Right now. Put my cock in your mouth.”

She glanced down Mateo’s body. His cock lay soft against his leg. “But you’re...”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s not about me. Put it in your mouth and see if there’s something you like about it.”

Paige wanted to refuse. Hadn’t she screwed things up enough by now? Couldn’t Mateo just let her give up on sex for now and hope she didn’t make a scene about this next time? But when her eyes traveled down his body, she did want to touch him. Gently, she put her first finger on his cock and pulled the foreskin down just slightly.

“Not fingers, Paige. Try it with your mouth.”

She felt helpless. She arranged herself so her face was near his cock again. She pressed her lips to his stomach, feeling the soft cushion of hair there that led lower.

Feeling a little silly, she started by just kissing his cock, feeling how soft it was against her lips. She kissed up the shaft and then kissed the wrinkle where the foreskin bunched after covering the flaccid head. She wriggled her lips under the foreskin and kissed the bare head, too.

Mateo stroked her hair again, his hands now so gentle that she shivered with the intensity of his tenderness. “That’s good,” he said. “The idea here isn’t, ‘Let’s figure out how to please Mateo.’ I want you to do what feels good to you, what you like in your mouth. This is your cock, and, unless what you do hurts, you can play with it however you like.”

Paige felt his words go straight to her pussy. Her cock. She’d told him so many times that she was for him, that her cunt belonged to him, but had never thought to ask the same in return. What did she want to do with her cock?

She opened her mouth wide and sucked it all inside. It nestled easily against the roof of her mouth. She prodded it a little with her tongue and sucked it lightly. She liked having the soft, warm coil of it completely under her control. She cupped Mateo’s balls with her left hand. All of his most sensitive parts in her hand and mouth. She felt a slow, deep pulse in her cunt.

You can get the whole book here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Going Down Released!

I just received my contributor copies for Rachel Kramer Bussel's Going Down: Oral Sex Stories, and the book looks hot!

The book has quite a range, and I'm pleased to say my story, "Getting Something Out of It," is called out in the introduction. I've posted some relevant excerpts of the intro below, but the full text is available at the book's website here.

I thought I knew, if not everything, quite a bit about the fine art of oral sex until I started to read the stories that came in for Going Down. In them, giving and receiving head became its own, if you’ll pardon the pun, head trip, and showed me that there is plenty for even the most seasoned connoisseur to learn and enjoy about an act that brings pleasure to so many.


The intimacy of climbing between someone else’s legs, of discovering what happens when you peel them open and utterly expose them, leaving them aching, trembling, willing to do anything to have you keep going, is a theme that is repeated here. Lovers get off on the thrill of being in command, in control, giving and taking joy in ways that leave the other person breathless. “There’s no rush of power quite like it in the world, that knowledge that you can make another person come, can release her desire and expose her most secret and vulnerable parts. That’s my favorite part of sex,” writes Mary Borsellino in “Blush.”

For some of these characters, oral sex leads them into new territory that brings revelations about much more than sex: Paige in “Getting Something Out of It,” by Annabeth Leong, lets go of the memory of a selfish lover and finds that when she takes control and owns what she’s doing when she goes down with a new lover, the act is special for both of them. Characters facing gender transitions, and their lovers, discover what remains and what is gloriously new about this most personal of changes.

When I wrote "Getting Something Out of It," I was thinking a lot about my insecurities and needs around sex. I admit I'm sometimes motivated by wanting to wow my partner, but I'm not sure how good that is for anyone involved. I was really pleased to see the editor responded to those themes.

I'll post an excerpt of the story, too, in the coming days.

Don't forget to check out the book -- it's available in both print and e-book editions.

Music Mondays: "Sex Is Violent" by Jane's Addiction and Diamanda Galas

"Showed me everybody naked and disfigured... Nothing's shocking."
--Jane's Addiction

My comments about sex and violence last week reminded me of this classic example from Natural Born Killers. I wish I could have found a clip of the scene from the movie. But I do like how the version from the movie's soundtrack is designed to tell the story of the movie with the dialogue clips and changes of mood.

I'd forgotten, by the way, how good that song's bass line is.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


To celebrate the publication of my novella, "The Six Swans," my best friend gave me this lovely little swan. She saw me struggle through edits for this thing and so forth, and the gift means a lot.

Often, when I accomplish something, I feel a little numb. For me, most of the interest lies in the verb of a thing -- the writing, the editing, and so forth. The fact of it leaves me a bit bewildered. A published thing? A thing you can see on Amazon? I've never been one to spend much time checking my byline. I always want to know what I'm writing next.

I like this instinct. It's served me well. But sometimes, it's nice to spend a moment basking in an accomplishment.

I put the lovely little swan on display on my bookshelf (right next to my collection of zombie pets). It's a good reminder of the power of faith, and hope, and friendship.

The book is here, if you'd like to take a look.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Remember the First Time?

Today I am remembering the first time I typed the word "clit" into a story. It was an experiment -- a thrilling and dangerous one. I wanted to know what kind of story I most wanted to write, and had made a promise to myself -- I would allow myself the freedom to write what I wanted for a year, without worrying about the future or whether I could publish it, or any of that.

The seminal moment came with a story called "Robot Lovers Prey on the Lonely." The title came to me first, and I had a vivid sense of the first scene. Quickly, it became clear that to tell the story right, I had to write about sex explicitly -- not just behind a closed door. For this story, I needed explicit sex to have proper characterization. Pulling back from that would have meant betraying the story.

I typed "nipple." Then a while later, I typed "clit." I felt good about the sex scenes as I wrote them -- they felt expressive and clear.

But pretty soon, horror hit me. What was I doing? This was a good story. By adding all this sex, I was dooming its chances. I would never be able to sell it anywhere respectable. If I could publish it, it would be caught in a ghetto somewhere. No one would read it.

I had to finish the story -- it was one of those special cases in which I truly felt compelled. But I was afraid of the implications of what I had done and the line I had crossed.

That first story turned out to be one of my first published erotic stories (and the inspiration for the name of this blog). It came out in Experimental, an anthology published by Ravenous Romance, and I'm incredibly proud of it to this day.

It amazes me to think of how frightened I was when I wrote those first "forbidden" words. I'd love to grab my younger self by the shoulder, give her a kiss on the cheek, and say, "Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet."

Yowza! Cover Art for Ravaged

I'm going to have to go lie down for a while now that I've seen this cover art for Ravaged, a forthcoming anthology of werewolf erotica from Breathless Press that will contain my story, "The Arcadian Cure." I love when I see a cover that makes my heart pound! And I'm sure the stories inside will keep the blood flowing, too... ;)

Edit (5/5/12): Cover replaced w/ corrected version (author names corrected).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Write for Coming Together!

Coming Together's Alessia Brio recently sent out a note about upcoming anthology calls -- a lot of neat stuff here!

Coming Together: Arm in Arm in Arm... (tentacle theme, benefits Oceana)
Nobilis Reed, editor
Closes 6/30/12; Releases 9/xx/12

Coming Together: In Vein (vampire theme, benefits Doctors Without Borders)
Lisabet Sarai, editor
Closes 8/1/12; Releases 12/25/12

Coming Together: Hungry for Love (zombies theme, benefits American Diabetes Assoc)
Sommer Marsden, editor
Closes 7/31/12; Releases 10/31/12

Coming Together: Triumphantly (healing/recovery theme, benefits Nat'l Women's Health Network)
Dorla Moorehouse, editor (Dorla is new to Coming Together, so she'll have a co-editor this time)
Closes 11/30/12; Releases 2/14/13

The Submissions page is here:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nothing Shocking About Shame

I've been thinking lately about how the supposedly daring movie Shame illustrates how little our culture has developed its attitudes about sex beyond high school level.

The main reason I can see for its reputation as daring is that it includes full frontal male nudity. OK, that was why I went to see the movie in the theater. I certainly didn't mind getting a really good look at every part of Michael Fassbender.

But other than that, I thought it reinforced a lot of stereotypes about sex. The main character struggles with a lot of disgust about himself and his desires that makes it hard to see any of the sex as actually hot. And that's a big thing for the crushing moral sense that pervades the movie. I felt like there was a sense of punishment, and the movie was so busy punishing the character that both he and the audience weren't allowed to really enjoy any sex.

There were moments of his degradation that I found sort of comical. For example, at one point, he throws away his porn collection. I think I'm supposed to be shocked at how much there is and how lurid it is. Instead, I fought the urge to burst out laughing in the theater. My first thought was, "Who has porn on paper and video these days? Doesn't the man have a laptop? Smart phone?" My second thought was, "Is that it?"

At another point, he's trying to pick up a girl in a bar and I think I was supposed to be stunned by his dirty talk. First, he tells her how much he loves going down on a woman and how he wants to make her come. Then he tells her boyfriend that he's going to fuck her in the ass and gets punched the moment he steps outside. OK. Not the coolest behavior. And, yeah, hearing Fassbender's voice saying those words was pretty hot -- I wouldn't mind a specialized recording (minus the punching sound effects). But it all felt angled the wrong way, like I was supposed to be disturbed less by his lack of self-control or poor etiquette and more by the fact that he was willing to talk at all about fucking a girl in the ass or going down on her.

I felt irritated by that, and my irritation increased as the character continued to "hit bottom" with his sex addiction. From getting punched out, he goes immediately to (gasp!) a gay bar, where he (double gasp!) hooks up with a man(!!!?!). Clearly, a sexual experience with another man is the height of debauchery and dissolution. The character is so desperate that he will willingly let a man go down on him. (Can you detect my sarcasm here?). It was deeply disappointing to me that the movie was arranged this way -- I think I was supposed to feel horrified that he was willing to stoop to the gay. Now, it may not have been a sign of his emotional health that he's willing to get a blow job from... whoever... but I didn't think it was any worse to get one from a random man than from a random woman (and he's been doing stuff with all kinds of random women for the whole movie). I felt like the scene exploited our society's homophobic tendencies.

Finally, I had to roll my eyes at the followup to the gay scene. The character immediately goes somewhere else, where he manages to have a threesome with two women. I read this as the movie needing to prove that he's still straight. He still "really a man," not secretly gay (and therefore "not really a man").

The definition of hitting bottom felt all wrong, simultaneously shaming and glorifying all the wrong stuff.

So, Fassbender is hot as hell (but most especially as Magneto in X-Men: First Class), and the movie raised some interesting issues. But its main effect on me was to illustrate some of the mental twists our society has around sex.

This is not to say that people can't behave in a shameful way about sex, or that Fassbender's character is a shining example of how one ought to be. But I think a lot of the techniques used to illustrate his shameful behavior were more about a general fear of sex than anything else.